Ratzinger birthplace parties, fires a gun salute

19th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

MARKTL - The church bell rang and rang on Tuesday evening in the little German town of Marktl and a crowd of 300 ignored rain, gathering on the market square to cheer native son Joseph Ratzinger after his election as Pope Benedict XVI.

MARKTL - The church bell rang and rang on Tuesday evening in the little German town of Marktl and a crowd of 300 ignored rain, gathering on the market square to cheer native son Joseph Ratzinger after his election as Pope Benedict XVI.

The new pope was born in the town in staunchly Catholic Bavaria 78 years ago when his father was working there as a police officer.

Many Marktl residents waved white-and-yellow flags, the colours of the Vatican, and the town's gun club was priming its collection of muzzle-loaders with gunpowder for a noisy salute with blank rounds.

A life-size photo of the new pope provided a focus for those who wanted to have their picture taken 'with Ratzinger'. The town's oompah band unpacked instruments for an impromptu concert and the town's parish priest was arranging a mass of thanksgiving.

Hubert Gschwendtner, who teaches at the local school and is mayor of Marktl, said, "I feel incredibly great delight," adding he had not been expecting Ratzinger to win the nod from fellow cardinals: "I thought it was going to be one of the ones from Latin America."

Marktl, a tidy town on the banks of the River Inn near the Austrian border, had proudly watched in the past week as Ratzinger preached in German-accented Italian while celebrating a papal funeral mass and the pre-conclave mass.

In the Oberbraeu, a bar opposite the birthplace of the village's most famous former resident, the television was turned up all day on Tuesday as the big moment approached. Before the news hit, one resident, Josef Winichner, said, "We're very proud of our cardinal."

Speaking on behalf of 15 men drinking beer at a big table, Winichner, 67, was of two minds about whether the papacy was good for a man Ratzinger's age. "It would be a terrible strain on someone who is 78," he explained.

But all the pub patrons agreed Ratzinger had all the qualifications for the job.

Marktl, where bathers and anglers gather at scenic lakes every summer, has been accustomed for years to Catholic sightseers dropping in to see the building where the highest German in Pope John Paul II's curia was born.

The street outside the two-gabled house is swept and daffodils add a splash of spring colour.

Ratzinger was baptised in the church nearby on the day he was born, Holy Saturday, the day before Easter 1927.

Ratzinger has already been honoured with the freedom of Marktl, a community of 2,700 including those in outlying hamlets, but Gschwendtner, 56, said he was going to don his mayoral chain and solemnly invite Pope Benedict XVI to revisit his birthplace.

"He doesn't have to come straight away, but if it's not long after he takes office, I'll be delighted," he said.

That would be another first for Marktl. It has never been visited by a pope before. "The place will go wild," predicted the mayor.

DPA

Subject: German news

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